For anyone who looked at Barack Obama and Joe Biden and thought, “man, these guys look cool. They’d make a dynamic crime-busting duo,” Andrew Shaffer is your man with the plan.
The catty, witty author behind “Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love” and “Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors” – to say nothing of his Trump satire, “The Day of the Donald” – hit Amazon and the New York Times’ best seller list with “Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery.” To celebrate this landmark (and its tale of intrigue and investigatory smarts when it comes to solving the current opioid epidemic), Shaffer appears at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s main branch, July 30.
“I started brainstorming for this a week after they were out of office, and wrote it during the summer and fall of 2017 while they were out of the public eye,” states Shaffer as to when and how much of their real time, real life legacy became important. “It worked out to where I could set the book during last summer, and have it be somewhat believable that they could have spent some time reconnecting as friends while solving a murder case. There are passages where the fictional Obama and Biden muse on their legacies. It's wish-fulfilment more than anything.”
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Rather than have Obama or Biden be distinctly political in their rhetoric (“I knew we wouldn't be getting their actual thoughts on Trump and the state of the country until around the midterms, when they're back on the campaign trail stumping for Dems”), Shaffer stuck to his, and their guns, and made them cool guy sleuths on a mission. And in a fast car, a la “Starsky & Hutch.”
“For the majority of the book, they're tooling around Wilmington in either Joe's neon-green 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A or Obama's armored Cadillac SUV--two cars that neither man owns in real life,” said Shaffer. Biden's Corvette Stingray, sadly, sits out their adventure at his beach house. The car of the cover, however which sets the tone for “Hope Never Dies’” action, was designed by Doogie Horner and illustrated by Jeremy Enecio. “The cover was fun to design, and I chose a white Camaro because it seemed like a car Joe would drive,” stated Horner. “Also the T-top was perfect for Obama to stand up out of, and point at whoever they’re pursuing.”
Making action heroes out of famous politicians is a far cry from Shaffer’s other books. “Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love” and “Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors” were, in the authors’ words, “really gossipy takes on their personal lives that compared their work with their often messy personal lives.” Writing the Obama-Biden book on the heels of “The Day of the Donald,” didn’t make him feel at all schizophrenic, as Shaffer penned the Trump trope during 2016’s Republican presidential primaries. “It was a satire about a reality TV star becoming president...who would have guessed? Not even Trump thought it would happen. I took shots at both sides of the political spectrum in the book, although—spoiler—Trump was the villain. That said, Hillary voters were despondent, and I wanted to turn despondency into something positive. No more dystopian novels.”
There’s no dystopia to be found in the positivist “Hope Never Dies.” Shaffer seems to have known that there would be a cheerful bromance between Obama and Biden between the larger-than-life twosome, dating back to Barack’s time in the Senate.
“The weird thing about Obama and Biden is that they started as antagonists in the Senate,” says the author. “They were on the same team, but at odds with each other—divided over issues, age, and a other factors. Even on the campaign trail, they weren't friendly. Their friendship blossomed over the years. They had a one-on-one lunch on a weekly basis. The bromance snuck up on us all. It wasn't until the final months of their last term that America collectively realized what we had, and what we were about to lose. I didn't want to see them end, which was what really kickstarted the book.”
While focusing on that bromance, “Hope Never Dies,” refuses to turn either man into caricatures, even though elements of their relationship (Obama is frequently rolling his eyes at Joe, while Biden continually schemes) is exaggerated. “This isn't ‘The Onion’'s Joe Biden, washing his convertible in the White House driveway with his shirt off,” said Shaffer. “Joe Biden wants to know what he can do for the world, and the villain wants to know what the world can do for them instead.”
So does Shaffer know if either man has read “Hope Never Dies”?
“Judging by Obama's literary pedigree and recommendations, I have a feeling this book might be a little too light for him," he says. "Biden might pick it up, though. Inever heard from Trump after writing “The Day of the Donald,” but that might be because his reading material skews in a different direction. I wouldn't expect someone who doesn't read his own daily briefings to have time for an entire novel.”